October 23, 2019

Looks like there's a new right-wing autocrat in town, but three's apparently not a crowd as far as Putin is concerned. Hungary's Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin seem to have both been working the same angle with their submissive boy Donnie Trump, whispering disparaging things in his ears about Ukraine and its new President Volodymyr Zelensky's fledgling administration. Zelensky was excitedly building a government based on anti-corruption, and eager to meet with Trump. After speaking in private with Orbán, though, at the White House — the first HOUR with NO note takers, mind you — Trump's willingness to meet with Zelensky waned. Hmmm.

According to The Washington Post, there's no evidence either Orbán or Putin specifically suggested Trump withhold military aid from Ukraine, or demand Zelensky investigate Biden's family and the 2016 election. They didn't have to, though. All you need say to a paranoid man is that a potential partner who needs something from you is untrustworthy. And that's all they did.

From The Washington Post:

But their disparaging depictions of Ukraine reinforced Trump’s perceptions of the country and fed a dysfunctional dynamic in which White House officials struggled to persuade Trump to support the fledgling government in Kyiv instead of exploiting it for political purposes, officials said.
U.S. officials emphasized that while Putin and Orban denigrated Ukraine, Trump’s decision to seek damaging material on Biden was more directly driven by Trump’s own impulses and Kyiv conspiracy theories promoted by his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Ashley Parker joined Nicolle Wallace to expand on the reporting:

PARKER: You have this new president, Zelensky come in, he campaigned on being a reformer, on taking control of corruption in his country and by all accounts, that's what he wanted to do. That's when American officials go over and they meet with him, they come back heartened and tell President Trump we think this guy is sincere, we think he's earnest in his intentions and we really think you should work with him. Of course, we know President Trump doesn't want to do that because he wants U.S. assistance tied to certain things. But the reason in part is because these two autocrats got in the president's ear and said, I just don't know about Zelensky, I don't think he's really good guy. I don't think he's that serious about corruption. They kind of hardened the president's natural instinct to be skeptical of Ukraine, and, again, we know this president, he likes strongmen leaders for whatever reason, so he's much more likely, frankly, to value the opinion of an autocrat rather than more traditional democratic ally, and so by the time he's really making decisions about Ukraine and Zelensky, he feels very strongly that he's kind of soured on the country and he's not that eager to work with them.

Nicolle Wallace asks Frank Figliuzzi to go where no man should be asked to go — into Donald Trump's mind — to assess why Trump is so eager to follow these strong men, rather than consider the good of democracy and the country he's been "elected" to serve. Understandably, Figliuzzi doesn't want to go there, but he posits the theory that we all basically know is true. Trump is not a leader. He is a follower.

FIGLIUZZI: When you have a president who's so easily influenced and manipulated, that's bad enough. When he's being manipulated and influenced by people like this, people who end up being counter to everything America stands for, then it undermines our national security. Essentially, our president is no longer a leader when he only wants to hear things he agrees with. He then is manipulated by people who are clever enough to figure out exactly the narrative to feed him. He agrees with it. He smiles. He likes it and they end up controlling him. That's not a leader anymore. That's a follower.

The problem is, he has fired everyone on his staff worth following.

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